French dip on a Friday night…

My favorite part of Cracker Barrel is the country store that you walk through before you enter the restaurant.  Namely the candy!  On this last visit I tried a candy bar I’ve never had before, a Zagnut.  It was delicious!  It reminded me of a Butterfinger with a toasted coconut outer coating.  Another candy that they had was a favorite of my moms, Toffifay.  Now the pièce de résistance was the 2 lb reese’s peanut butter cup.

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It was about 7:30 pm when we got there but that didn’t stop Donna from getting breakfast.  Poor Donna always has such a problem getting what she wants when it comes to breakfast.  She’s not a big eater so she always asks for one scrambled egg, bacon and toast or one scrambled egg on a roll.  For some reason this is never on the menu, so it totally stumps the waiter or waitress.  Suprisingly this time she got just what she asked for, after alot of explaining of course.

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I wanted something a little more substantial so I ordered a french dip with fries and coleslaw.  I am used to this sandwich with melted mozzarella or even provolone but this had melted swiss.  Very tasty.  There were also onions on it, which I could’ve done without.  On a whole, the sandwhich was delish .

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Another entertaining, yet frustrating, part of the whole cracker barrel experience is the peg board game.  I have yet to win this game and I have tried several times.  Donna was also defeated.

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All in all we always have a good time at Cracker Barrel and this time our waitress Gabi make it extra entertaining.  She had some strong opinions about some of her patrons at Cracker Barrel being extra terrestrials, at least the ones that order dessert after having a big meal.  She just couldn’t understand where any human being could fit dessert!

The charm of Cracker Barrel is that it just feels like home.  From the comfort food to the endless candy selection.  There is a checkers board game set up to play along with the rocking chairs out front for sale, that you can try on for size before you buy them.  We love it here.

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Soup and salad on a fall day

I love salad, especially a good salad bar.  What constitutes a “good” salad bar?  Cleanliness first and foremost.  Freshness second.  Lastly would be a wide variety of toppings.  East Bay Deli gets 5 stars on all three of these catagories.

 

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The reason the salad bar is immaculate is due to the staff constantly cleaning and refreshing it.

 

I ordered the cup of soup and salad bar combo for dinner.  There were about 6 different choices of soup but I went with the broccoli and cheese.  As  I pulled my spoon from the cup a string of ooey gooey cheddar cheese trailed behind.  Man that is some delicious soup!  I truly didn’t need the soup being the salad bar offered so much.  Artichoke hearts, mini mozzarella balls, baby corn, fresh bacon crumbles, chick peas, cranberries, black olives, hard boiled eggs, ham and fresh shaved parmesan cheese to name a few of the toppings.

 

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Salad bar and cheddar broccoli soup.

 

Donna ordered the “Terrific Turkey melt” which is composed of melted swiss, avacado spread, diced tomatoes, and Russian dressing on a french loaf.  This sandwich looks like it tastes good beside’s actually being delicious.  It is so true that you eat with your eyes first.  My mouth instantly started to water once the waitress placed the plate on the table.

 

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Terrific Turkey Melt with chips and pickle spear.

 

A cool thing about East Bay Deli is that you can sign up for a rewards program to get free stuff!  We actually got introduced to East Bay by my cousin Jennifer.  We had gone to the location on main street in downtown Columbia with her and her son Tommy.  Thanks Jennifer!  On our second visit to the location on Sunset Drive in West Columbia is when we signed up.  Today I was delighted to hear the cashier tell us that we had earned either a free drink or a piece of cake, chocolate or carrot.  We chose the carrot cake of course.  1. Because its cake 2. Because carrots are healthier than chocolate.  It was if they combined three pieces of cake and served it as one, that’s how ginormous the slice was!

 

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This carrot cake must weigh approximately 8 lbs.  Seriously!

 

All in all I absolutely love the East Bay Deli.  From the retro decor to the rewards program.  The fact that it’s open 7 days a week from 7 am – 9 pm makes me love it even more.

 

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It usually takes us at least 20 min to read through the menu there are soooo many choices.

 

Kirby’s dos and don’ts…

What’s that saying….”Failure is the stepping stone to success” or something like that.  I wanted to share some things I’ve recently learned with my readers to prevent you from making the same mistakes.

#1.  Wear glasses while cutting onions.

The lenses will prevent the onion’s chemical from getting into your eyes and you won’t cry. “Onions produce the chemical irritant known as syn-propanethial-S-oxide. It stimulates the eyes’ lachrymal glands so they release tears.” (Quote from recipes.howstuffworks.com)

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Onions for tomato pie.

2.  Put a cookie sheet under your pie crust when baking.

The reason being, if whatever you are baking should boil over it is much easier to clean a cookie sheet than the baking element in the bottom of your oven.

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See….the cookie sheet saved me!

3.  Put wax paper under the rice when you prebake your pie crust.

I made a tomato pie recently and the recipe called for me to prebake the pie crust before filling it with all the goodness that is tomato pie.  The crust puffed up and cracked a bit.  To prevent this the second time I filled the crust with uncooked rice (this weighs down the bottom) and prebaked. You can use dried beans as well.  The one thing I didn’t do was put a barrier between the rice and pie shell.  Oops.  Hence, I spent the next 5 minutes picking rice out of my shell. Wax paper is your friend.

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I used brown rice, which made it even harder to see to pick out.  😦

 

Venison….the other “other” dark meat

There is a guy at work, Gordon, who is kind enough to always share the fruits of his garden with Donna and I.  Zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes, yellow squash, etc.  In return I have gifted him with various foods that Yuri has canned.  For example:  jalapeño pepper jelly and jalapeño relish.

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Muscadine jelly, jalapeño pepper jelly & jalapeño relish

One day we were talking and he asked me if I ever had eaten venison.  I replied no.  Gordon told me he’d bring me some if I wanted to try it.  Being the adventurous food blogger that I am, of course I said sure!

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Frozen venison 

I don’t know the first thing about venison or how to cook it so I consulted with my cooking mentor, my step mom. Yuri had worked with venison before and said it was very lean so she didn’t like to make burgers with it.  Chili it is!

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Venison/ground beef chili

Yuri mixed the venison with ground beef, so I couldn’t even taste a difference.  It was very delicious!  My sister Kelly wouldn’t even taste it because she said it reminded her of Bambi.  Oh brother….  Yuri and I asked her what was the difference between eating a deer and eating a cow or a pig or a bird?  She wasn’t having it.  After brow beating her for 15 minutes straight she finally tasted a spoonful.  Results?  She couldn’t taste a difference but still refused to eat a bowl full.  That’s okay, more chill for me!

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My non adventurous food crawl partner in crime laughing at us trying to convince her to eat venison

To finish off the chili Yuri also made cheesecake bites dipped in chocolate.  Oh my…

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These chocolate cheesecake bites are dangerous!

The best thing about when Yuri makes dinner is the fact she makes enough for an army!  And you know what that means?  Leftovers!

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Guess who everyone was jealous of at work that day?  Me!

Breakfast at Kirby’s

Being that I was off today I opted to not make my usual instant oatmeal to start my day.  What do I have in the fridge that can equate to a delicious dish?Potatoes….check.  Onion…check. Eggs….check.  Home fries and fried eggs it is!

 

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Now Donna likes her yolk runny so I need to be careful not to break the yolk when I flip the egg.  I never fancied my eggs cooked that way before but I have come to appreciate a runny yolk.  The best thing about a runny yolk is soaking up that golden liquid with a piece of toast.  Unfortunately bread is not a common staple in our kitchen so “no toast for you”.  (A nod to any of the Seinfeld fans out there)  After that description I really wish I would’ve had some bread!

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I really love breakfast.  Some folks don’t bother themselves with it but I feel like it’s crucial to get my day started right.  I usually only have oatmeal with fresh fruit, juice and coffee on a workday.  When I’m off I like to mix it up because I have time to actually cook something.  Whether you do breakfast or not I hope you have a wonderful Saturday on this 2nd day of fall.

Opa!

It’s that time again!  This weekend was the Greek Festival in downtown Columbia and we went on Saturday.  We being me, Donna and Jennifer.  Suprisingly enough Jennifer had never been to the festival so we were excited to bring her along.  We also ended up meeting up with more friends Dawn, Edie and Edie’s daughter Haley.

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Me, Haley, Dawn, Edie, Donna & Jennifer

Now looking at the vendors is all well and good but the main reason for going to the Greek festival is the food!  Speaking of food, I would like to take this opportunity to poll my readers about the pronunciation of one particular Greek dish.  The gyro.

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I grew up on Long Island where a gyro is phonetically pronounced “ji-ro” and then I moved to South Carolina where everyone phonetically pronounces it “e-ro”.  Supposedly I’ve been saying it wrong all along but I just can’t bring myself to change my ways on this one.  I’ll say “buggy” instead of “cart”, “highway dept” instead of “DMV”, even “wreck” instead of “accident” but I just won’t budge on how I say gyro.  How do you say it?  I’m curious.

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Donna enjoying her Gyro 🙂

And yes, we both ordered gyros for dinner and Jennifer got chicken strips.  The gyros had a plain yogurt sauce on them with some onions and tomatoes.  They were good but Donna found hers to be little dry due to the cook being a little stingy with the yogurt sauce.  Now on the other hand, the chicken that Jennifer ordered was delicious.  The chicken itself was very moist and the breading was extremely tasty.  I was very pleasantly suprised by this.  We didn’t even need dipping sauce, it was that good.  Next we headed to the building where the desserts were.  My sister was originally going to come with us but she was sick and had to pass on this crawl.  Although she did put in a request that I bring her some baklava to help cure what ailed her.  Uh huh.  Baklava is the best medicine for any illness, no?

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Instead of getting the traditional baklava that is layer upon layer of filo dough I chose the chocolate baklava, which is rolled instead of layered.  I actually preferred this over the traditional being it wasn’t as syrupy sweet.  It was delicious.  Funny thing, the way my dad judges if a dessert if good or not is by how much it weighs.  If I bring him a sweet, he’ll hold it in his hands and checks the weight.  He’ll eat it regardless of how much it weighs but he prefers one that’s heavy.

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Dad at Zesto with two of his favorite things…his girls and ice cream!

Now this photo was obviously not taken this weekend (it’s cooled down a little but not quite to the “I need a knit hat” temp) but I just wanted to include a picture of my dad and his love of sweets.  Why?  Because I think he’s pretty great and I wanted to share that with all of you.  So if you have someone in your life that you too think is pretty great, tell them.  Life is short.

 

Brunch with buddies

Not words with friends but brunch with buddies.  Yeah, I like it.  Well today our brunch was hosted by our good friends Sheila and Teresa at their new home at Casita de Cardinal.  They graciously accepted having brunch at their house after Donna had volunteered them to do so.

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Hangin’ pool side!
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I wish the water was a little warmer to take a dip.

For our brunch I decided to make three different things.  The first is a staple if I am going to my friend Sheila’s house. Iced lemon blueberry bread.  Fresh blueberries, fresh lemon juice and lemon zest.  So freakin’ delicious!  This was a recipe that someone had posted on their Facebook wall and I shared it to mine.  I’ve been making it ever since.  It doesn’t make the bread any worse to serve it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  I’m just saying.

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Lemon blueberry bread.

Then I decided to make an artichoke quiche.  Now I usually use a recipe that Donna’s mom had given me but I couldn’t find it so I asked Google for help to find me a new one.  Google did good.  I used a frozen deep dish pie crust and filled it with quartered artichoke hearts, mozzarella, pieces of bacon and eggs.  This recipe was far superior to the last, as per Donna’s critique.

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Artichoke & bacon quiche.

Now I am saving the best for last.  I do believe my first attempt at tomato pie was a definite success being Teresa went back for seconds.  This I take as a big compliment and leads me to believe that I have passed the test.  I do make a good tomato pie.  Now for my New York friends, this is not to be confused with a pizza.  No, no, no.  They are two totally different animals all together.  The tomato pie is made with, once again, a deep dish pie crush, rough cut tomatoes (you need to extract all of the water from those tomatoes as to not make the crust too soggy), fresh basil, cheese (your choice), mayonnaise and onion.

Now I chose a cheddar/monterrey jack mix although my step mom makes it with gruyere which is also delicious.

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Draining the tomatoes…
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Pre bake.  Isn’t this pretty?  
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Finished dish!

Thanks to Dawn and Karen for providing the dessert.  Cupcakes from Tiffany’s.

 

USC football, family & food…

I just started following the USC football team this year and my sister Kelly and step mom Yuri are teaching me all the ins and outs.

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Baseball, basketball and hockey I can follow no prob but football is Greek to me.  Throughout the entire game I asked questions and they answered, educating me on touchbacks, downs, incompletes, etc.  I hope that by the big USC vs. Clemson game on the Saturday after Thanksgiving I’ll be able to follow it like a pro!

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Dad and Molly relaxing
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Kelly multitasking…crocheting while she cheers our Gamecocks on!

Yuri’s diner was open for business tonight for all of our tailgating needs! What was on the menu?  Home made teriyaki & buffalo wings, floppy chips and beer battered onion rings.  OMG!

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Thank goodness I wore my sweatpants, along with my Carolina t-shirt & hat of course, because I was stuffed by the time I was done eating.

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Beer battered onion rings
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Teriyaki wings
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Floppy chips

Everything was delicious but those onion rings.  Oh lawdy!  Talk about addictive.  I asked Yuri what made these onion rings so good and she said it was the onion itself.  She uses Vidalia onions.

You know what I hate?  When you bite into an onion ring and the entire onion separates from the breading and you are left with an onion hanging from your mouth.  Yuri’s onion rings don’t do that.  Vidalias, that is the trick.

Well, our team won thanks to my new favorite player, Deebo Samuel with his 97 yard touchdown.  I am very proud to be a member of Gamecock Nation and look forward to cheering our guys on every Saturday.  Go Cocks!

 

 

Labor day lunch date

Originally we had planned to meet my cousin Jennifer over at D’s Wings on Axtell Drive in Cayce for lunch but when we got there they were closed for the holiday.  Thankfully The Kingsman, which is right next door, was open for business.  It’s hard to believe that in the almost 6 years that we have lived here I have never eaten at The Kingsman restaurant.  Donna has gone there once before but I have never been.  The parking lot is always filled to maximum capacity every time I drive past.  My dad told me that the restaurant has been there for forever but in actuality it has been there for 45 years.

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Grilled chicken sandwhich, Kingsman burger and a reuben.

The menu included steaks, chicken, burgers, wings, sandwiches and salads.  Jennifer decided on a burger and fries and Donna chose the grilled chicken sandwhich with bacon & cheese with a salad off the specials board.  I, on the other hand, ordered a reuben on texas toast with a salad.  Usually this sandwhich is made on rye so I wasn’t sure about the texas toast but I was willing to try it.  This is a food blog, isn’t it?

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Reuben sandwhich with side salad.

As long as salad is an option on the menu I order it.  I love salad and there is nothing more disappointing to me that getting a crappy salad.  The salad at The Kingsman has passed the test and earned the “Kirby Culinary Crawl” stamp of approval!

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The shirt is to pay tribute to USC’s win this past Saturday.  Go Cocks!!!

The pastrami on the sandwhich was very good, sliced nice and thin.  The cheese was melted to perfection and the thousand island dressing, even though a little thin, was very tasty.  I was not a fan of the texas toast.  Although it was delicious, it was not a sturdy enough vehicle to deliver the weight of the pastrami, cheese, kraut and thousand island.  The bread was too soft and got soggy making the sandwhich difficult to eat.  Rye is a much denser bread and better suited for this sandwhich.

Feeling full from lunch we decided to walk it off at Michaels craft store.  This is Donna’s favorite place and the gift card she had gotten from Dad & Yuri for her birthday was burning a hole in her wallet.

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Jennifer having fun in the Halloween section 🙂

After we left Michaels we headed over to a new ice cream joint called Brain Feeze over on Knox Abbot Drive.  Unfortunately they were  closed for the holiday.  So over to Krispy Kreme we go.

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Introducing “The Krispy Kreme Girls”

Now Jennifer had said that they had ice cream at Krispy Kreme so that’s why went (also to get some cool hats so we could be the envy of all our friends) but when we asked at the counter… shut down again!  “No ice cream for you!”  They stopped carrying ice cream.  We got doughnuts, a coke and coffees to go and we were off.

We had texted our good friend Deanne who works at one of our favorite places, The Old Mill Antique Mall on State Street, to see if she’d like a coffee.  Next stop, Antiques!

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Deanne was a good sport for agreeing to wear the Krispy Kreme hat we brought her with the coffee and doughnut.

You just never know what the day is going to bring.  Today was filled with family, delicious food, lots of laughter, good friends and a stroll through an antique mall.  Whose got it better than me?

Nothin’ beats a Coke and pizza…

We were out and about running some errands today on my day off and decided to stop for lunch.  At first we thought we’d go to Moes for tacos.  The thing I love about Moes is #1 – when you walk in you feel like Norm form Cheers because they yell “Welcome to Moes!” and #2 – they have a salsa bar.  Being we were in the Harbison area I rembered Papa Gios Pizzeria was close by in Irmo so I asked Donna a question that I knew the answer to before the words even left my lips.  Needless to say our lunch venue changed and now we were pizza bound!

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This is how you eat a slice!

Being that both Donna and I are originally from Long Island, you might say we are pizza connoisseurs.  Papa Gios in Irmo gets our official stamp of approval for their pizza as well as their garlic knots.

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If I closed my eyes and took a bite I would swear I was back in New York.

This pizza is a work of art!  Notice the bubbles in the crust.  Just enough cheese, just enough sauce and thin enough to fold.

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Garlic knots with homemade marina sauce for dipping

These garlic knots are the perfect side dish!  The portion is very generous for the cost of just $4.50.  Know that the picture doesn’t depict the true portion size because I always forget to take a picture before we start eating!  The garlic butter sauce that has now pooled beneath the knots is something magical that I could drink all by itself.  Of course Donna would probably not let me back into the house after that, being my breath would be strong enough to kill a vampire.

We must talk about one last thing before I close.  Grease.  Pizza needs to have a certain amount of grease to it.  When I held up this slice of pizza, folded it and tipped it forward, grease dripped from it.  I don’t trust a pizza pie that isn’t greasy.

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This is how your plate should look if your pizza was made right.  #1 empty and #2 greasy.

We used to go to a pizza place in Bayport off Montauk Highway called Satelite Pizza.  We’d get 3 slices and a greek salad to split and 2 garlic knots (you could get them either baked or fried).  That pizza was so greasy I’d have to get a stack of paper towels and blot it to absorb some of the grease.  That was the best pizza ever.  They were right around the corner from our apartment.  We have hopes that someone will open a pizza place in one of the empty store fronts on State Street right down the street from our current apartment.

A girl can dream can’t she?